December 14, 2015 / 5:03 AM / 2 years ago

Super Bowl champion New England back in the postseason

Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown (90) celebrates with defensive end Jabaal Sheard (93) and defensive tackle Alan Branch (97) after recovering a fumble during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - The New England Patriots became the first AFC team to clinch a playoff berth when they beat the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday.

The Tom Brady-led reigning Super Bowl champions improved their season record to 11-2 to clinch their seventh straight playoff berth.

They are the third National Football League team to lock up a postseason spot, following the Carolina Panthers (13-0) and Arizona Cardinals (11-2) of the NFC.

New England has the best record in the AFC, following losses on Sunday by the Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) and Denver Broncos (10-3).

The Patriots are now in the box seat to secure a first-round bye, awarded to the top two teams in each conference.

New England’s remaining three regular season games are against Tennessee Titans (3-10), New York Jets (8-5) and Miami Dolphins (5-7).

Carolina earlier on Sunday locked up a first-round bye when they thrashed Atlanta 38-0.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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